Does a Release of Liability Waiver Have Limits?

Does a Release of Liability Waiver Have Limits?

Contrary to what many people believe, a release of liability waiver has limits. It protects a business or property owner only under certain conditions. You may be asked to sign a waiver of liability at a gym, theme park, or sporting event. But you’re only waiving the right to sue for harm sustained by circumstances the waiver covers.

How Does a Release of Liability Waiver Work?

A liability waiver is a legally binding agreement once it’s signed. It protects a company from being sued if you’re injured on its premises or while participating in an activity or service. But it only covers ordinary negligence. The waiver isn’t valid if it’s determined the business committed gross negligence or an injury was caused by intentional harm.

An example of ordinary negligence is if you tripped over a folded rug on a roller rink or if you slipped and got hurt on an indoor rock climbing wall. But there are instances when the business or property owner crosses the line into gross negligence. Even if you signed a waiver, you could sue if you were injured by exposed electrical wiring at a roller rink or fell due to a loose grip or torn rope at a rock climbing facility.

Therefore, a release of liability waiver does not relieve a business of its duty to protect patrons. It can become invalid under a variety of conditions. We’ll explain in more detail soon, but first, here’s a look at its legal justification.

What Is the Legal Principle of a Release of Liability Waiver?

A waiver falls between tort and contract law. Tort law pertains to negligence and the responsibilities that we owe one another. Contract law is an agreement between two or more parties. It usually involves a type of bargained exchange.

Signing a waiver puts tort law out of reach, making it difficult to sue another person or business for negligent behavior. But it doesn’t cover all types of negligence. The language in a waiver can be specific, general, or lack clarity (in which case a skilled lawyer can determine if the defendant is liable for damages). A well-written waiver outlines and explains the activities that are inherently risky and that you assume the risk of participating in.

How Are Waivers Enforced?

Waivers are enforced under state law. They’re not governed under any federal law, so how suing after signing a waiver works depends on how your state’s courts handle it. Some states see it as a “freedom of contract”, meaning people have the freedom to agree to whatever they choose. But even in this case, the courts won’t enforce a waiver if intentional harm or egregious conduct was the cause of injury or death. An agreement can also be considered inherently harmful to the public; some courts have even struck down agreements that were determined to be too one-sided.

To determine whether a waiver should be enforced, a court will look at the following:

  • Clear Language: If a waiver has ambiguous language and doesn’t clarify the risk the signer is taking on, it may be invalid. The document must clearly explain the scope of coverage (and what rights the signer is waving). It must also be legible; details of coverage in fine print can invalidate the agreement.
  • Gross Negligence: A waiver with intent to release an entity of liability for reckless, intentional, or grossly negligent behavior won’t be enforced if the party engages in fraud or conduct that causes injury.
  • The Waiver Contradicts Public Policy: A waiver may be written clearly but be deemed contrary to public policy. For example, if it attempts to apply to damages caused by reckless or intentional acts, the agreement’s coverage may not protect the business from lawsuits arising out of such negligence.

The Scope of a Waiver Is Typically Narrow

By signing a release of liability waiver, you’re accepting responsibility for the risk it outlines. Most waivers are limited to a narrow range of activities, so they are not totalizing. This means they don’t relieve a business of the responsibilities they have to protect their patrons. 

The wording of such an agreement is often complex and has subtle nuances that provide specific meanings. Your options after sustaining an injury may be unclear, but an experienced legal professional can analyze the wording and context of the document. They can then identify its limits and determine what legal options you can pursue. 

Contact The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani

Release of liability waivers have limits. Our skilled Los Angeles personal injury attorneys have represented clients in numerous types of cases and won millions of dollars in damages. If you signed a release of liability waiver and were injured, for example, while playing contact sports or during a high-risk activity such as rock climbing, sky diving, skiing, or using an e-scooter, we’ll determine if gross negligence was a factor and hold liable parties accountable. Call (888) 952-2952 for your free consultation.

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